It’s time for Decibel Geek to hit up a completely new experience, BroFest UK. Our editor, The Meister, was alerted to this event by the Swedish Decibel Geek Mikael “The Lionsheart” Svensson. Rather thinking that Meister would not be able to participate, Mikael put forth the suggestion anyway as more of a joke since he and his brother had already planned attendance. Well as it happens, The Meister already had a trip on tap that encompassed a Pretty Maids/Gotthard concert in Munich, followed by 2 Monsters of Rock Switzerland shows. The Swiss shows, Bern and Zurich, feature Krokus, Gotthard and Shakra all on the same bill. Decibel Geek Shawn “Animalize” Irwin and another friend signed on and booked their flights quite early from Toronto to Munich. Delaying in booking his flight as Christmas approached proved to be an excellent choice for The Meister. Now he easily tacked on the extra time to attend BroFest as well! Alongside The Lionsheart and The Meister will be a fairly new Decibel Geek contributor Graham “Sparky” Spark. I wonder if Newcastle can handle that much Decibel Geek?
Tickets for the event are still available, so feel free to join the Decibel Geek crew!
The Meister’s Anticipation of BroFest UK #5
BroFest is a classic rock and metal, NWOBHM styled, festival taking place February 23, 24, & 25, 2017 in Newcastle, UK. The festival is in its 5th year for the 2017 event and showcases an incredible roster for those deep into NWOBHM. While I enjoy many styles of metal and bands, NWOBHM is generally a perennial fave. Most bands falling into this genre are high on my list of often played and bucket listers to see live. There are, of course, the greats, the bigger, more widely known names such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Diamond Head, Saxon and early Def Leppard. But there is a lot more to the NWOBHM genre.
The movement began in the United Kingdom in the late 1970’s. According to Wikipedia: NWOBHM began as an underground phenomenon growing in parallel to punk and largely ignored by the media. The movement involved mostly young, white, male and working–class musicians and fans, who suffered the hardships brought on by rising unemployment for years after the 1973–75 recession. As a reaction to their bleak reality, they created a community separate from mainstream society to enjoy each other’s company and their favorite loud music.
A lot of the names appearing at 2017’s BroFest may not be household names but many are high on my list. A few were new on my radar, but it was “to the internet Batman“ for some YouTube listening that quickly lead to some purchases. Here’s a quick peek at some of the band targets in my crosshairs for the BroFest event (in no particular order).
Battleaxe has been high on my wishlist since I discovered them with their 2014 album. That album, Heavy Metal Sanctuary, made my top ten of the year in 2014! I was certainly late to the Battleaxe legions as they originally appeared in 1980, changing their name from Warrior to Battleaxe sometime that year. The debut album was unveiled in 1983 and titled Burn This Town. A year later in 1984, they served up Power From The Universe, but sadly the band came to an end in the late 80’s. Demos were recorded for a third album, but they would not see the light of day until the release of the Nightmare Zone EP in 2005. With half of the band still intact from Burn This Town, Dave King (vocals) and Brian Smith (bass) are joined by longtime collaborator Mick Percy (guitar). Sitting in behind the kit for Battleaxe we find Gary Young (Avenger) for this event that I’ve been looking forward to for some time.
Graham Oliver and Steve “Dobby” Dawson both once were a part of the Saxon ranks in the glory days. Being a longtime Saxon fan, I have followed the band since my youth. After Dawson and Oliver departed Saxon (1986-Dawson / 1995-Oliver) they banded together. They initially adopted the moniker Son of a Bitch (Saxon was originally called Son of a Bitch), but then began using Saxon. Losing a legal battle to utilize the Saxon name, they went out under the banner of Oliver/Dawson Saxon. Their 1996 Son of a Bitch release, Victim You is a stellar effort from start to finish. In 2012 they issued Motorbiker under Oliver/Dawson Saxon which also contains some nice tracks, but I struggled to grasp the vocals. In my first live experience with O/D Saxon, I hope we’ll get a good mix of some classic Saxon as well as tracks like “Past the Point”, “Drivin’ Sideways” and “Victim You” from Victim You and “Motorbiker” from Motorbiker.
Salem were introduced to me via the promo department of their record label, Pure Steel Records when they forwarded the Dark Days album for review. This album was a floater in and out of my running list for the top ten best of 2016, never dropping below #15! Ultimately Dark Days did not make the final cut of the ten, but it was close and should definitely be checked out. One of Decibel Geek‘s contributors, Lorne Carter, supplied an Album Review of Dark Days. Personally, after hearing Salem‘s 2016 effort, Dark Days, I was compelled to delve deeper into the Salem catalog. The album previous to Dark Days in 2013’s Forgotten Dreams and is another top notch recording. 2010’s In the Beginning… compilation of older material is also worth a listen. With a few bands having adopted the Salem moniker, you may find these guys referred to as Salem UK mainly to distinguish themselves from the Israeli band. Decibel Geek already has an interview planned with the boys so I look forward to bringing you that.
Aside from hearing the name in my younger days from time to time Demon were not a band that was widely spoken of in my circles here in North America. I didn’t hear their musical outputs until doing some advance prep for my inaugural attendance at Sweden Rock Festival in 2013. I purchased previously unheard, their 2012 release Unbroken. What a magnificent album! From there I began to acquire the remainder of the back catalog prior to my journey. Demon did not disappoint in concert during that first excursion for me to Sweden. I again had the extreme pleasure of catching the band again during Sweden Rock 2016 for another stellar performance (Demon-Sweden Rock 2016 Spotlight). With a new album that also fared very well in the race for Meister‘s best of the year, Cemetary Junction (Demon-Cemetary Junction Album Review) seeing Demon for a third time is a highly anticipated event.
Saracen were a completely new band to me. Both Mikael and Graham, however, were familiar and so began my education. The band’s debut full-length record in 1981, Heroes, Saints & Fools, displays enough NWOBHM elements for the band to be lumped into that classification. The album also expands on that employing keyboards, grand melodies, and a little progressive touch. From my first spin, I found Heroes, Saints & Fools a magical listening ordeal. Following that debut, Saracen issued Change of Heart in 1984 before they folded in 1985. They reformed in 2000 and since then we’ve received Red Sky (2003), Vox in Excelso (2006), Marilyn (2011) and Redemption (2014). Saracen were slated to attend the 2016 BroFest #4 event but became forced to stand down due to illness. I may not be a hero or a saint, but I’m no fool, I’ll be making sure not to miss Saracen at BroFest!
Another bucket lister here! Decibel Geeks Shawn Irwin, Brian Ronald and I were thrilled seeing Tokyo Blade announce a tour date in Canada a couple of years back. Unfortunately, it was set for Montreal with no Toronto date planned. No matter we set about organizing a trip (5 hrs away) to catch this NWOBHM pioneer that should have been a household name back in the early 80’s alongside the other greats. The date was canceled, I forget why and Tokyo Blade fell once again into bucket list territory. Now I can rectify that, I’ll shoot some video for you kids :). Undergoing several changes in roster and moniker throughout the years, Tokyo Blade has released nine full-length albums since inception in 1982. If you’re new to the band I highly recommend starting out with their incredible Night of the Blade album from 1984. Now with original vocalist Alan Marsh recently rejoining the ranks, Tokyo Blade are poised to lay waste to the BroFest stage.
I received High Spirits‘ 2014 album You Are Here from the record company but, unfortunately, it got lost somewhere in the shuffle and never spun. 2016’s Motivator brought High Spirits back to my playground with what can only be described as a stellar effort. The album was reviewed for Decibel Geek by fellow BroFest attendee Graham Spark (High Spirits-Motivator Album Review). Formed in 2009, Chicago-based High Spirits is the creation of Chris Black. In fact, Black plays all instruments and provides the vocals as well! With Motivator being the third full-length outing for Black, I have familiarized myself with the non-Motivator material. Yet another fantastic set to look forward to at Brofest 2017! I will also be heading to Edinburgh after BroFest, planning to catch High Spirits one more time as they tour with fellow BroFest band Toledo Steel (who are currently unfamiliar to me).
For those keeping score, that’s a hefty portion of the Brofest roster right there! But I’m not finished just yet.
This band started out in 1979 with the Death and Destiny EP. That EP has been elevated to a cult status, said to rival that of Iron Maiden‘s The Soundhouse Tapes of the same era. Bands such as Metallica even list Mythra as an early influence, so that should let you know the quality of the band. After 1981, the band basically disappeared and didn’t re-emerge until 2015 to play BroFest #3. The compilation album Warriors of Time: The Anthology surfaced in 2015 as well and now Mythra are set to issue a brand new album in April 2017. For this greatly anticipated release, Still Burning forthcoming via High Roller Records, Mythra vocalist Vince High promises that “We intended to stay true to our NWoBHM roots and achieved our goal. The eleven tracks have tons of power and energy, twin lead guitar breaks, driving bass, thunderous drums and big choruses. Everything fans would expect from a Mythra album”.
Here we come Newcastle!
I’m looking forward to reuniting with my Decibel Geek brother in rock, Mikael Svensson and meeting stalwart contributor Graham Spark in person finally. We will all be rocking out at BroFest #5, reach out if you’re going and want to meet for a frosty beverage or 2. If you’re not already going, there’s still tickets available. Hope to see you there.